By: Ryan Randall
Saturday’s Florida Gators softball game against Missouri seemed to be a change of pace from the nail biter that was Friday’s contest.
Until the sixth inning.
While Florida would close out the game with a 9-6 victory, the win was earned late.
Florida struck first as Taylore Fuller hit a home run to left field in the top of the second. Missouri responded with an Angela Randazzo RBI to tie the teams up at the end of the inning. The Gators would experience a surge of runs the following at bat staring with Kelsey Stewart’s score off a Missouri pitch that got behind catcher Kirsten Mack. On the next pitch, Kirsti Merritt would hit a double to send Lauren Haeger home. Bailey Castro closed out the team’s at bat with two-run bomb to give the Gators a 5-1 lead.
In the fourth inning, Florida scored again via Merritt’s sacrifice fly. Castro hit another home run to put the Gators up 7-1 in the fifth. Defense was an issue for Missouri throughout the game. Sophomore pitcher Tori Linucane had trouble with location and multiple throws got behind Mack, allowing for runners to advance on base. Even after the Tigers switched to Cheyenne Baxter in the sixth inning, Florida was walked five times, leading to an 9-1 deficit. The Tigers entered the bottom of the sixth inning with the possibility of the game ending on a run rule if Florida held them scoreless.
However, the Tigers would stay alive by the bat of third baseman Amanda Sanchez. The freshman hit a three-run blast to make the score 9-4. It was Sanchez’s third homer of the series. The seventh inning saw the Tigers continuing to gain momentum and wear down Florida’s pitching.
While freshman Aleshia Ocasio threw well through five innings, things unraveled in the sixth and became worse in the seventh. With two outs to go, Missouri senior Alyssa Cousins hit a solo home run to the make the game 9-5. On the following pitch, Ocasio’s throw got away from her and hit Kayla Kingsley on top of the helmet. After the play, Florida’s coaching staff met with Ocasio on the mound to talk with her and try to calm the young player down. Missouri would continue to reach base, however, as Sami Fagan singled to center field. Florida head coach Tim Walton would substitute Ocasio for Delanie Gourley, though Missouri continued to press Florida. On Gourley’s first pitch, Sanchez singled, sending Kingsley home and putting the Tigers within three runs. However, Florida threw Natalie Fleming out on a grounder on the next at bat, giving the win.
Much like Friday night, the Gators were tested late by the Tigers, but were able to close the games out. Florida looks to finish out the series with a win Sunday, giving them their 18th consecutive victory and second SEC regular season title in three years.